If you spot a serious safety hazard at your workplace, and you wish to file a hazard or violation complaint with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), it is best to take action as quickly as possible. OSHA will issue citations only for violations that either currently exist or could be found within the last six months. You only have a certain number of days, discussed further below, to contact OSHA to file a complaint against your employer in New York.
Whistleblower complaints must be filed within the time limits specified within the whistleblower statute relevant to the complaint, as follows (timeline starts on the date you experienced adverse action from your employer, such as being terminated):
|30 Days||60 Days||90 Days|
|Section 11(c) of the Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSH Act)||International Safe Container Act (ISCA)||Asbestos Hazard Emergency Response Act (AHERA)|
|Clean Air Act (CAA)||Wendell H. Ford Aviation Investment and Reform Act for the 21st Century (AIR21)|
|Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act (CERCLA)|
|Federal Water Pollution Control Act (FWPCA)|
|Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA)|
|Solid Waste Disposal Act (SWDA)|
|Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA)|
- Ways to File an OSHA Safety Hazard or Violation Complaint
- Filing a Whistleblower Complaint
- How to File a Whistleblower Complaint
- Information to Gather for Your Whistleblower Complaint
- What Counts as an OSHA Violation?
- What If an OSHA Violation Leads to an Injury?
- We Can Help You with Claims Involving Willful OSHA Violations
Ways to File an OSHA Safety Hazard or Violation Complaint
OSHA provides several avenues for filing a complaint:
Complete the Online Complaint Form – A good way to encourage an onsite OSHA inspection is to complete and submit an online complaint form. The form lets you provide specific details about the safety hazard, its location, and whom you notified of the condition. You have the option to authorize the release of your name to your employer or to keep your name confidential. The information you provide will be sent to a state plan best suited to respond to the issue.
Fax or Mail the Complaint Form – You can also download and print a complaint form, complete it, and either fax or mail it to your OSHA Regional or Area Office. Sending your form to the OSHA Area Office closest to you is the best way to ensure an onsite OSHA inspection. Be sure to include your contact information on the form so that OSHA can follow up with you, if appropriate.
Call an OSHA Office Via Telephone – An OSHA staff member at your local OSHA Regional or Area Office can talk to you about your complaint and answer your questions.
For any immediately life-threatening hazard or emergency, contact your local OSHA Regional or Area Office or call 1 (800) 321-OSHA (6742).
For a free legal consultation, call 516-932-0400
Filing a Whistleblower Complaint
Sometimes, employers might retaliate against workers for exercising their employee rights. In such a case, the employee is entitled to file a whistleblower complaint. This complaint must establish four allegations:
- The employee acted in a way protected by whistleblower protection law.
- The employer was aware of or suspected the employee’s actions.
- The employer acted adversely toward the employee.
- The employer’s negative behavior was prompted by the worker’s protected actions.
Remember that you have the right to ensure workplace safety. If your employer takes action against you on that basis, they are in the wrong, and you should take steps to protect yourself and your rights.
How to File a Whistleblower Complaint
You can file a whistleblower complaint using any of the following methods:
- OSHA’s online whistleblower complaint form
- Faxing, mailing, or emailing a printed copy of the downloadable whistleblower complaint form to your local OSHA Regional or Area Office
- Calling your local OSHA Regional or Area Office
- Walking into your local OSHA Regional or Area Office
You cannot make your whistleblower complaint anonymously, and you must respond to OSHA’s follow up, or it will dismiss your complaint.
Information to Gather for Your Whistleblower Complaint
You can help your OSHA investigator pursue your complaint by having access to the following items:
- Copies of relevant text messages, emails, meeting notes, memos, work orders, activity logs, etc.
- Copy of employee handbook
- Copies of letters related to hiring and/or firing
- Your job description
- Documentation of additional complaints
- Copies of your five most recent pay stubs
- Documentation of disciplinary action you received as an employee
- Documentation from other actions between you and your employer
If you have any doubts or worries about how to file or collect evidence for a whistleblower complaint, you have every right to ask an attorney for guidance. They will ensure you take all the right steps and protect your rights throughout the process.
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What Counts as an OSHA Violation?
OSHA provides specific guidelines for employers to follow regarding the safety equipment, training, and other measures they must provide to employees. You can find these guidelines across multiple regulations. Among other things, their regulations relate to:
- Face and eye protection (e.g., using good-quality goggles in a dangerous environment)
- Respiratory protection (e.g., using proper masks when in a dangerous environment)
- Scaffolding, ladders, and heights in general
- Containing and protecting employees from hazardous materials and extreme temperatures
- Maintaining equipment and protecting employees from possible mishaps regarding heavy machinery
Again, if you notice a violation in any OSHA-protected area, it is imperative that you file a complaint as soon as possible. This will ensure safer working conditions for you and your fellow employees and potentially prevent serious accidents.
If you are unsure if you have witnessed or experienced an OSHA violation, check the regulations first, or ask a qualified lawyer to go over them with you.
What If an OSHA Violation Leads to an Injury?
If someone is injured because your employer willfully ignored OSHA regulations, that person should:
- Seek medical attention immediately
- Report the accident to their employer
- File a report with OSHA, if a violation contributed to the injury
- Consider their legal options
Your legal options may include seeking compensation from the responsible party. Employees have two main options when it comes to seeking compensation.
First, you may file a workers’ compensation claim with your employer after suffering an onsite injury. The employer’s insurer would then consider the claim and, if they accept it, pay for the injured employee’s medical expenses and a certain amount of their regular wages.
Personal Injury Lawsuit
The state of New York does not give workers the right to sue their employer. However, if you (or your legal representative) can connect the injury with a third party, you might be able to file suit against that third party. Examples of potential subjects for lawsuits include:
- Another employee or contractor
- The owner of the property on which you were injured (if it is not your employer)
- The manufacturer of a faulty product
If filing a lawsuit is the right option, a personal injury attorney will file it on your behalf. They will then:
- Collect evidence to prove your need for damages and the third party’s liability
- Negotiate for a just settlement with the liable party’s insurance company
- Take your case to court if they cannot reach a just settlement (insurers, while often willing to negotiate, do not always want to pay what victims need)
We Can Help You with Claims Involving Willful OSHA Violations
If you were injured at work due to a willful OSHA violation, you may have the right to file a claim against a third party and pursue compensation for your injuries and related damages. While you cannot sue your employer, we can work to find another liable party before the statute of limitations under New York law runs out.
Friedman & Simon, L.L.P. will meet with you for a free case review and consultation. Remember, we take no money unless and until your claim for compensation succeeds. The sooner we start, the better the chance for this success. We know you only have a few days to contact OSHA to file a complaint against your employer in New York and a limited amount of time to file a claim against a third party. Call us today.